Festival funnel cakes come with history
Newton resident Verlin Siefkes had plenty of help making and selling funnel cakes Friday and Saturday at Chingawassa Days. One of his helpers had four legs and a tail.
The retired special operations Marine and former government intelligence contractor, Siefkes worked with federal agents as part of an organized crime strike force investigating the Medellin drug cartel in Columbia.
He was kidnapped by cartel members and held captive for 28 days before he escaped.
The experience left him with extreme anxiety — so much so that at one time he slept on the floor next to the bed where his wife slept so he would not harm her during the night.
Missy, his service dog, is half Labrador retriever and half German shepherd. Missy will turn 3 this month. Siefkes has had her since she was a puppy.
He trained Missy himself.
“I got her certified with the VA so I could get the vest,” Siefkes said.
While the Siefkes family operate their food truck, Verlin cooks funnel cakes and his wife, Sonya, and other family members take orders and sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Missy’s job is to keep a watchful eye on Siefkes. She never took her eyes off him during Chingawassa Days.
Her job is to provide stability to keep his anxiety from getting the upper hand, and Missy takes the job seriously.
When Siefkes stepped out of the food truck, Missy stood at attention and watched him closely. When he walked to park restrooms, she accompanied him there and back.
The Siefkes have operated a food truck for several years, traveling as far as New Mexico.
“We used to travel all over but not so much anymore,” Sonya said.
At bigger festivals, they sell barbecued brisket and pulled-pork sandwiches, but they have scaled back the number of festivals they work.
“We’ve just gotten too old,” she said. “I’m not putting up the grill and doing it. It’s just too much work.”
For Missy, it was love at first sight. The first time Verlin saw her, she went to him and lay on his feet.
She doesn’t like Verlin and Sonya to hug.
“She tries to get between us,” Sonya said.
At home on the Siefkes’ rural property is a stream. Missy wasn’t comfortable with the water.
Her slender body doesn’t give her as much buoyancy as a full-blooded lab, and swimming tires her.
“I had to buy the Lab a lifejacket,” Verlin said.
She does have a quirk or two. When Verlin gets out of the shower, Missy licks his legs.
“She gave herself a job,” Verlin said. “I don’t have the heart to tell her not to do it.”
But Missy is so well behaved she’s never jumped up on the bed or taken a bite of human food.
The Siefkeses’ funnel cake food truck had business nonstop Friday evening as the park filled with hundreds of people to hear Dan Marshall and Christian performers Tasha Layton and Sanctus Real.
A long line of hungry customers stretched more than 20 feet from the window.
On Saturday morning, when heavy rain fell for three hours and visitors to Central Park left to escape the rain, the Siefkes family had time to relax.
In the early afternoon, festival-goers came back, and the Siefkeses got busy again.